Saturday, September 26, 2020

Botswana urged to make use of its solar resource

Botswana is said to have the best solar energy in the world, which can solve the country’s energy shortage problem but the area is not yet exploited.

An expert in the field, Jonathan Berman who is Managing Director of Fieldstone Group said this at the just ended Botswana Resource Sector Conference which was held in Gaborone. Fieldstone is one of the leading international financial advisors and financial services providers in the energy, especially power and infrastructure sectors.

Berman said Botswana’s solar industry can be best investment avenue for economic development and job creation. All SADC countries have invested in the solar project but Botswana has the best solar radiations because of its position which has not been fully exploited. This he said, presents an opportunity for the country to build solar plant because the country has good mining industry.

He told the mining resources industry players that, “the country is also bankable without programmatic support from development financing institutions or donors, if government guarantees are available given government’s credit rating. Botswana Power Corporation needs to be sustainably profitable before non government supported transactions possible.”

Botswana can be a regional price leader in solar power, as he added, “it has the capacity to fund renewable energy projects in Pula, therefore a currency match can be achieved between BPC’s purchase and sale of electricity. Participation of Asset Managers in Botswana would strengthen the depth of the liquidity pool available to developers of projects.”

The country receives 3,200 hours of sunshine per annum with an average insulation on a horizontal surface of 21MJ/m2. This is one of the highest rates of insulation in the world, according to Berman.

Under the Masa 2020 strategy, BPC has embarked on a comprehensive renewable power development strategy, in which it will develop and operate a 100MW solar power plant in 2019. It also looks to develop and operate mini hybrid power plants in 20 isolated villages, a total of 30MW as a joint venture. The Corporation will further build a 12 smaller solar PV plants in dedicated villages, a total of 75mw as IPPs.

BPC has plans to seek for $200million funding from Climate Change Fund to finance these solar power plants.

It was also established from the conference that, in comparison with South Africa’s renewable energy independent power producer (REIPP), a lower tariff is possible in Botswana due to the continued decrease of photovoltaic (PV) prices. Furthermore, 30 percent of South Africa costs are Enterprise Development-local/Black Economic Empowerment content in shareholding, construction, supply, operations amongst others. Botswana therefore could develop similar programmes or choose to lower power tariff further, suggests Berman.

Globally, solar power stations are concentrated in the United States and Europe, with the largest of them being the 354megawatts station in Mojave Desert in California in USA. Berman sees a bright future on renewable energy but with uncertainties.

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